Hollyhock , (althoea rosea), an ornamental plant of the order malvaceoe, introduced into English gardens from Syria in 1573. In warm countries it is a perennial, but with us it is a biennial with large, rounded, heart-shaped, angled, or lobed, rough leaves, and a stem 6 ft. or more high, upon the upper portion of which are placed the nearly sessile large flowers, so closely together as to form a dense spike 3 ft. or more in length. The calyx, of five sepals, is subtended by an involucre of several bracts, united at the base, giving the appearance of a double calyx; the petals are five, obcordate and united at the base with the stamineal column, which consists of united filaments, and is anther-bearing at the top; pistils several, their ovaries united in a ring around a central axis,-from which they fall away when ripe in as many one-seeded carpels as there were styles. The original hollyhock was single, and of a i No plant of our gardens has been more improved by cultivation than this; semi-double flowers are very common, and the choicer kinds have the flower completely filled with petals and form hemispherical masses of great beauty.
Even in the most double forms the original five petals remain unchanged, often showing as a narrow border around the central petals, which are much crowded, crimped, and folded, and of a delicate crape-like texture. In color a great change has been effected also; we now have white, shades of yellow, pink running through various shades of red to purple, the latter being in some so dark as to be called black. Not only are there self-colored flowers, but those in which the tints are varied by streaks, veining, and shading, and sometimes the under sides of the petals are of a different color from the upper. On account of the size and showy character of its flowers, the hollyhock is well adapted to garden decoration, and is usually planted where it can be seen from a distance; if the flower spikes are relieved by a background of green, their effect is much enhanced. Some of the more delicately tinted ones are often used by florists in making up large bouquets and floral decorations; the central portion of the flower is furnished with an artificial stem, and when worked in with other flowers those unfamiliar with the matter would not suspect its real nature.
However double a hollyhock maybe, it still remains partially fertile, and seeds from the finer kinds, if they have not been fertilized through the agency of insects by pollen from inferior sorts, will reproduce the variety with considerable certainty; a large proportion of the seed of a good strain will produce fine flowers; hence this, being the least troublesome, is the most common method of propagation. As the plants do not bloom until the second year, they are kept for the first season in a reserve bed, and set where they are to flower in the fall after sowing, or in the following spring. If the flower stalks, as soon as the flowers are past their prime, are cut away, the root may be taken up, divided, and reset; in this way a choice specimen may be kept along year after year; the named sorts of the fanciers are propagated in this way as well as by cuttings of the stalks treated in the usual manner. Even grafting is resorted to in the case of very tine sorts, scions made from the stems being set upon the roots of any common kind. Cultivators prefer the dwarfer specimens, they being less injured by winds than the tall, and by selecting in this direction the height of the plants is much less than formerly.
The hollyhock has usually been free from enemies of all kinds, but in 1873 a parasitic fungus,puccinia malvacearum, heretofore only known in South America and Australia, appeared in England and France; the only known remedy is to destroy all affected plants and thus prevent its increase. The roots of the plant are mucilaginous, and are sometimes substituted for those of marsh-mallow, but they are coarser and darker colored. The French use the dried flowers in infusions, probably more for the color they impart than for any medicinal quality.
; rose or purplish color, a form now rarely seen.
Dwarf Double Hollyhock.